By Elaina Asselin
Dandelions, peas and radishes are sure signs of spring. Dandelion greens are rather bitter, but can be quite good when contrasted with something sweet. Peas take on that responsibility here, and the first of the season are the sweetest- and freshest-tasting. The larger they get and the hotter the sun is, the starchier the pea. Radishes can be quite hot. The trick is to grow them fast in cool weather. Marinating them will take a bit of the edge off.
Makes 4 servings
1/2 pound French breakfast radishes or other fresh, local variety,
1 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
pinch kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sweet garden peas
1 bunch dandelions, leaves only, washed thoroughly and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced (use a mandolin if available)
3 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
6 oz thick-cut double-smoked bacon, cut into lardons (1/4- inch dice)
1 shallot, minced
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 pound pea shoots
freshly ground black pepper
4 chive flowers, if available
Make the marinated radish: In a small bowl, stir together the radishes, olive oil, lemon zest and salt. Set aside for about 20 minutes.
Make the salad: Have a large bowl of ice water ready. In a medium pot of boiling salted water, blanch the peas for 1 minute. Drain the peas in a colander and immediately plunge them into the ice water. After 1 minute, remove the peas and drain; set aside.
In a large shallow bowl, add the dandelion leaves and fennel; set aside.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until crisp. Pour the bacon and all but 1 tablespoon of the hot fat over the dandelions and fennel. In the same skillet, add the shallots and cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and bring to a boil.
Pour the shallot mixture over the bacon. Toss the salad well.
Arrange the warmsalad onto four large plates. Sprinkle the blanched peas on top.Toss the pea shoots into themarinated radish; place an equal portion on top of each salad. Crack some fresh black pepper and a touch of crunchy sea salt on top. Garnish with chive flowers, if available.